It must have been around 1.30am when I woke up needing a pee. I rolled over to get out of bed but some force of gravity pushed me back down into the centre of the mattress. I could not remember there being an enormous sag in the bed that Antonio had gifted us, but then, by the time we eventually got upstairs, we were both so exhausted that our heads had barely touched the pillows before we were transported deep into the land of Nod. This bed was more hammock than mattress, and the ancient bedsprings creaked noisily at my every move.Fearful of rolling on top of Irishman and waking him, my only solution was to grasp the brass bedstead with both hands and haul myself up into a sitting position before lowering my legs over the side.
The floor tiles were chilly as I made my way barefooted across the room in search of my shoes but fortunately the tea-light candles that I’d lit at bedtime were still burning so finding them was an easier task than might have been. Still half asleep, I forgot to duck my head when going through the bedroom door and received a hard whack on my head from the lintel, which in turn left me dazed so that I completely misjudged the height of the step down onto the landing and fell into a heap at the top of the stairs. Whoever it was that designed this old house, must have had a wicked sense of humour; for every step has been built for giants, and every door for dwarves. Shocked awake, I negotiated the remaining stairs in the dark, fumbling my way down into the sitting room and made for the front door. Since most of the door was already off it’s hinges, it meant adopting a lifting and dragging technique to get it to open without it entirely coming off it’s hinges and falling off into my arms.
I stepped out into the dark autumn night, lifted up my nightdress, and parked my large backside down onto the plastic bucket. As I gazed up at the sky, its myriad stars twinkled and the sweet sound of cicadas serenaded me as I relieved myself. Sat there, I wondered why people make such a fuss about en-suite bathrooms.
The following morning I was rudely woken by the sound of lots of smashing glass and the noisy alarm from a truck as it reversed BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! For a good five minutes all I could hear was noisy clunking, banging, and thudding as the council men emptied the village bottle bank and recycling bins situated a handy stone’s throw from our front door. Just as I was beginning to entertain thoughts of a NIMBY * nature, it occurred to me that I could have a lot of fun with my future collection of empty Rioja bottles. I fancied that if I stood at one of the upstairs windows, I could save myself the walk of all of twenty-five steps by trying to lob my empties into the portholes situated on the sides of the bottle bank. On that cheery note I went downstairs to fire up the camping stove and put the kettle on.
Whilst I was waiting for it to boil, I wandered round the yard making mental notes of all the things that I wanted to do. Pull a wall down here; build a wall up there, pots around the sides, and tiles on the walls…
Irishman, on hearing the whistling kettle, soon came downstairs and joined me. He downed a cup of coffee and then said he was off to the bar for a crap. ‘Do you really, really have too?’ I begged, ‘Please, can’t you do it in the bucket like me? No, he was absolutely insistent that he was prepared to put up with most of the inconveniences of our new home but using a bucket, as a toilet was a step too far. I prayed that Paco and Antonia were still fast asleep and wouldn’t witness my husband skulking across their yard with a roll of toilet paper and a book under his arm.
By 10am the first of the builders arrived, followed by various plumbers, and electricians. I’d written everything down that we needed doing urgently, namely to get a bathroom installed, hot water, a kitchen and re-wiring. By mid-afternoon the last of them had gone. Now it was simply a matter of waiting for them to send us quotes. I went back inside the house and wished that we had ten times the amount of money so that we could afford to get everything fixed. Some of the windows had no glass in them, there was a gaping hole in an outside wall and I could see that before long the roof was going to need fixing due to ominous stains on a few of the ceilings. Only when the winter rains came would we know for sure.
Suddenly there was loud shouting and banging on the courtyard door ‘Lottie y Pedro!’ ‘Lottie y Pedro! Pronto! Pronto!’ We opened the door and there was Paco who was clearly upset and worried about something. Due to our not very advanced Spanish, we were not entirely sure what he was trying to tell us. He was gesticulating madly, and getting more and more excited, possibly something about a car? Our car? Irishman and I both looked looked over to where our car was parked at the front of the house, it had vanished.
*NIMBY Not in my backyard